The Superheroes Among Us

Photo by Klaus Nielsen on

My grandmother used to store a stack of comic books at her home for the times when her grandchildren came to visit. Since my mother thought that such things were a frivolous waste of time and resources, I often found myself skimming the pages of those graphic stories with great interest. When I was a child I thrilled to the adventures of Superman in glorious shades of black and white on television and even laughed at Mighty Mouse, a little cartoon character who often came to save the day in operatic glory. Eventually the pulp superheroes of my youth were transformed into larger-than-life characters on the silver screen, sporting incredible powers and superhuman devotions to justice. 

I have enjoyed fantasy, mythology and stories of great courage for as long as I can remember. I suppose that we all imagine an incredible person arriving in the nick of time to save us from life’s evils and tragedies. It’s fun to think that we might overcome the difficulties and challenges of living with the magical entrance of a superhero who has been hiding in our midst. In truth, we don’t really have to invent such characters because they have always been among us, albeit without the ability to fly or climb buildings like a spider. 

The history of humanity is filled with tragic events that bring us to tears, but also balanced with stories of uncommon bravery and compassion. In truth a superhero does not need a cape or an iron suit to make a dramatic difference in the world. The guy who shows up to help a stranded motorist on the side of a road is a hero in every sense of the word. He may drive up in a pickup truck wearing jeans and a t-shirt stained with the dirt and oils of his daily work, using his kindness and skill to change a tire or jump a battery, and then disappear into the night. 

I saw superheroes when hurricane Harvey hit my city. They came in boats and waded through chest high water on foot to rescue folks stranded in their homes. They carried mothers, babies, children, old people to safety and then went back for more victims of the floods. Some of the heroes showed up to shovel mud and muck from inside damaged homes. They took down sodden sheetrock and offered solace and food to complete strangers whose houses had been destroyed. They brought truckloads of supplies to schools and rebuilt structures that had once been so badly damaged that it seemed that they would never again be the same.

For months now I have observed the heroes in our medical community who work tirelessly to save lives. They endure scorn and attacks from villains who falsely and unfairly accuse them of lying about the virus that plagues us all. They come back day after day to brutal conditions and heart wrenching situations being created by false beliefs built on pride and politics and lies. They never give up as they do everything possible to perform miracles one person at a time.

I see our teachers enduring increasingly stressful situations, unsafe conditions, unreasonable expectations. They do their heroic work because they understand all too well that the very foundation of our society is built on destroying the evils of ignorance. They rescue the precious minds of our future from the abyss of illiteracy and an inability to think rationally.

The superheroes among us produce our food even when they might become ill and die from doing so. They deliver the goods and services that we need no matter how much we take them for granted or abuse them with our unwillingness to protect and support them with simple measures like wearing masks in their presence. Ordinary souls are the angels among us, their superpowers are courage, honesty, dedication, compassion. Their stories should be the stuff of books and films. Truth is always better and more fascinating than fiction. 

A superhero dedicated to the city of Houston would drive an ordinary car or truck. This person would be either male or female. The costumes he or she wear would vary depending on the need of the emergency. The gear might feature a pair of scrubs and a stethoscope, work clothes and a hammer, rubber boots and a shovel, comfortable shoes and a book, a uniform from the military or police department or the fire brigade. Such a hero won’t be able to fly without a plane or a helicopter. He/she will only scale buildings with tall ladders or cranes. Eyeglasses won’t be removed, but kept in place for clearer vision. Our hero is not a single character, but a league of great people who step out of the shadows whenever there is a call for help. They are young and old, representative of the diversity that defines our town. The quest for justice and eliminating evil is never ending and so they will appear just when we think that we are doomed. They are ordinary and extraordinary at one and the same time. They live quietly and anonymously among us, but they rise up for us with great regularity, asking for nothing in return. 

There are superheroes on our streets, among our friends, in our families, at the stores where we shop, along the roads where we drive. We never know when they will swoop down to help us, to save us, to protect us. We should honor and cherish them and return their favors whenever we can because we can be superheroes as well.